Ecological Inference from Variable Recruitment Data
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To understand the processes affecting the abundance of wild populations is a fundamental goal of ecology and a prerequisite for the management of living resources. Variable abundance, however, makes the investigation of ecological processes challenging. Recruitment, the process whereby new individuals enter a given stage of a ?sh population, is a highly variable entity. I have confronted this issue by developing methodologies speci?cally designed to account for, and ecologically interpret, patterns of variability in recruitment. To provide the necessary context, Chapter 2 begins with a review of the history of recruitment science. I focus on the major achievements as well as present limitations, particularly regarding environmental drivers. Approaches that include explicit environmental information are contrasted with time-varying parameter techniques. In Chapter 3, I ask what patterns of variability in pre-recruit survival can tell us about the strength of density-dependent mortality. I provide methods to investigate the presence of density-dependent mortality where this has previously been hindered by highly variable data. Stochastic density-independent variability is found to be attenuated via density dependence. Sources of recruitment variability are further partitioned in Chapter 4. Using time-varying parameter techniques, signi?cant temporal variation in the annual reproductive rate is found to have occurred in many Atlantic cod populations. Multivariate state space models suggest that populations in close proximity typically have a shared response to environmental change whereas marked differences occur across latitude. Hypotheses that could result in consistent changes in productivity of cod populations are tested in Chapter 5. I focus on a meta-analytical investigation of potential interactions between Atlantic cod and small pelagic species, testing aspects of the cultivation-depensation hypothesis. The ?ndings suggest that predation or competition by herring and mackerel on egg and larval cod could delay recovery of depleted cod populations. Chapter 6 concludes with a critical re?ection on: the suitability of the theories employed, the underlying assumptions of the empirical approaches, and the quality of the data used in my thesis. Application of ecological insights to ?sheries management is critically evaluated. I then propose future work on recruitment processes based on methods presented herein.